Sunday, July 13, 2008

Five Plead Not Guilty to Luring Women to U.S. for Prostitution


By S.A. Reid, Rachel Pomerance

Five men --- four of them related -- pleaded not guilty in a federal sex trafficking case in which prosecutors contend they brought at least 10 young Mexican women to the U.S. illegally and forced them to work as prostitutes in metro Atlanta.

Amador Cortes-Meza, 34; Juan Cortes-Meza, 31; Francisco Cortes-Meza, 25; Raul Cortes-Meza, 21; and Edison Wagner Rosa Tort, 69; face trial after entering their pleas Monday in U.S. District Court in Atlanta with help from an interpreter.

A 31-count indictment charges the defendants with human trafficking and other related offenses stemming from activities uncovered by U.S. Immigration and Customs and Bartow County and Gwinnett County sheriff's investigators.

The Cortes-Mezas, all Mexican nationals, were arrested June 5 in Norcross, where they were living.
Authorities took Tort, a legal permanent resident originally from Uruguay, into custody June 24 in Cartersville.

Prosecutors accuse the men of conspiring to seduce, entice and recruit the women ages 14-28 to travel here from Mexico with promises of legitimate jobs, then force them into prostitution in the metro Atlanta and elsewhere after their arrival.

Four women involved were under 18, and the defendants allegedly used threats, coercion, and physical violence to force them to cooperate. Some were held against their will or harbored at locations in Cartersville, where Tort lived, and in Norcross.

The women were delivered to clients' apartments or homes and were required to have sex with up to 30 men per day, authorities said. The activity dates to spring 2006, the indictment said.

The women most likely will be able to remain in the United States under visas for victims and are unlikely to face criminal charges or deportation, according to Patrick Crosby, a U.S. Attorney's Office spokesman.

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